Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Mrs. Bright on Aging Without Fear

Leslie Basham: Do you want to hear about commitment in marriage? Here's what Vonette Bright had to say when her husband, Bill, was facing serious illness.

Vonette Bright: I want to be with him when he goes to heaven. I want him to be able to tell me what it's like when he goes. I'm trusting that he will. He'll be able to tell me what heaven is like and that we'll be joyful when he goes.

Leslie Basham: It's Wednesday July 21, 2004; and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We're all going to grow older. We're all going to face a lot of tough life situations. But, Nancy, we'll hear today that we don't have to fear those times.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That's right and that's one of the subjects we're going to discuss today with my dear friend, Vonette Bright. The conversation you're about to hear took place in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Bill Bright.

Dr. Bright at the time had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease that would take his life seven months later. At the time that Vonette and I had this conversation, her husband Bill was oxygen-dependent and I talked with Vonette about her role as a helper to her husband and then asked her thoughts on the whole process of aging.

Vonette, you've always seen yourself as being a helper to your husband, to Bill Bright. Now, people look at Bill Bright as a very successful, well-known Christian leader and a lot of women may think, Well, if I were married to a man like that I could succeed spiritually, it would be easy to be a helper.

But they don't know the in's and out's and the demands that being in the very public life has put on you as a couple and that as wonderful as Bill Bright is, there are still challenges of being the wife of a busy, well-known Christian leader.

Yet, you have adapted to him, to his schedule, to the ministry that God has called him and you to, as a couple. Talk to us about women as adapters, as helpers and why that's so important for women to see themselves in that way.

Vonette Bright: Well, Nancy, I don't believe it's possible for a person to achieve their maximum fulfillment totally on their own. There has to be someone who comes alongside to help, to encourage, to boost, to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes it's an older person who devotes themselves to a younger person. Sometimes it's a parent. Sometimes, certainly with a man, it's his wife, that's the intention.

I just feel like in a husband and wife situation where they both have great abilities, one has to give in order for the other to achieve at a particular time. There was a time when Bill said to me, when I was asked to be a part of the Liaison Committee and it was an opportunity to spread this internationally and I was getting invitations to speak in different parts of the world and Bill said, "Honey, I think the Lord would want me maybe to step away from Campus Crusade some and devote some time to you so that you can really have a personal ministry.

"I want you to know you're free, now with the children grown, that you're free to travel anyplace in the world you feel led to go. I'll back you and if it's necessary for me to go with you in order for it to happen, I'd do that."

I sat there with my mouth open and I said, "No way!" I don't have any desire to be in one part of the world and Bill in another part of the world and just so I can have a ministry. I think God wants us to minister together and I've never wanted to have a ministry that would be anything but what would be a complement to him.

Bill Bright could have made me"¦I would have done anything for Bill, I loved him so much and when he said to me, "I want you to be my partner" that was a little bit confusing to me in the beginning.

Then he didn't have to push very hard because I have some ideas of my own and I'm a pretty expressive person as you can imagine. But, there have been times too when I've had to say, "Honey, I need your advice" or " what do you think I can do in this situation?" And here again, you're working these things out.

But I came to the place where Zach was entering high school; Brad was entering junior high and I realized that these boys were pretty big. If they would ever become defiant what was I to do and if it got to the place where I couldn't handle them?

I'd talk with him about it every once in a while and I said, "Bill, I want to know what you want me to do. What can I do to be the greatest help to you?"

He said, "My dear, if you will just see that I have clean shirts and take care of the children. You see that they're happy; they get the proper meals, keep this house going and keep things in reasonable routine, that's all I need you to do. If you'll just do that, that's the greatest help you can be to me right now."

Okay. I was happy doing that and he praised me a lot for what I was doing because I was doing what I felt God wanted me to do and what he wanted me to do and I wasn't going to be disappointing anybody. I could go about my work a lot happier.

I also taught our children that ours is a family ministry and God has called our daddy to travel. He has called us to stay home and to pray for him and to follow him and, you know, to grow up to be happy people and we did lots of fun things when he came back.

We prayed for him. We followed him by map and by the clock so we knew we could anticipate what he was doing. We had prayer with him.

Daddy called generally at the end of every day; it was one of the prices that we paid because we were apart. So, we prayed together almost every day on the telephone and the children were a part of that so that was a help.

I think we need to help our husbands to know that we need their assurance as well to help them to know, "I need you. I need to hear from you. I need to know that you're pleased with what I'm doing."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Vonette, I look at you as a woman who really is enjoying the Lord, enjoying your husband, your children, your grandchildren, the ministry God has given to you and yet I know a lot of women look ahead to being older and they feel fearful.

Did you ever 20, 30 years ago or as you approached becoming an older woman, was that ever a fearful thought to you?

Vonette Bright: No, I never thought of myself being older; as a matter of fact, I still don't. But, I never told my age. Bill would always tell his and I'd think, Be quiet because people can figure out what it is!

It was only about four years ago that I stood before the staff because I was beginning to have some physical problems. When you hit seventy and your body begins to tell you that it doesn't function exactly the same way, you know, you don't handle stress as well; you don't handle pressure quite as easily; your body responds to the things around you.

I had lost seven friends within about a two-year period and that takes its toll. We had moved to a new community, which is like, I understand, a death in the family, the ministry was growing, new relationships"¦so I ended up being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

I learned a lot through that and I made myself admit to the staff my age. First of all that I had something that was bigger than I am, to cope with, with the fibromyalgia; that I was sure I was going to lick it, I was not going to let it lick me.

But, I just felt it was healthy for me to admit that I was not so young and that was not real easy to do. We must accept where we are and our limitations and that's been wonderful and in many ways, I'm doing as much or more than I ever did but in a different way.

I have learned to try to put myself in situations where I don't have deadlines or I don't have pressure or to extend the deadline or have somebody come along and do things for me that I was never able to do for myself.

I think life is far richer. Bill is not having to adjust. He always comes first. I don't want anybody to ever do anything for Bill that I can do and it's a privilege to care for this man. I just pray I can stay alive until the Lord takes him.

It's a fun time. It's a different time but it's a special time. It's a new adventure. I don't want to have any regrets and I don't believe I will. We've learned to laugh at things that could be catastrophic and we've learned to discuss the fact that, you know, he can go at any moment.

I may wake up some morning and he's not there. I pray I'm here and I've taken a few trips. Brad, our son, lives here in town and I've left him for overnight a few times when I felt it was safe enough to do that. If anything would happen when I were away, I would have a hard time with that.

I went to San Francisco a couple of weekends to go to speak for a pastors' wives' conference. So, Bill said, "I don't need anybody to stay with me, I'm perfectly fine, I can stay by myself. I enjoy being alone."

I know he does but, if anything should happen to him, I would never be able to live with myself that I needed to be home. This was my place; I should not be off speaking somewhere. The whole world wouldn't forgive me! I'd have to live with that, that Vonette Bright was not there, she left her husband and he died while she was gone? No way!

So he said, "Well, all right I see the importance." So, I began to think of who I could get to come. No one, did Bill agree with,until I came across Howard Ball, a very good friend who said to me early on, "Vonette, if you ever need someone to come and stay with Bill, give me a call, which is a dear friend.

He came; they had the greatest weekend together. They enjoyed the time, we had meals all planned so that everything worked out. Even Bill went to church on Sunday, Howard took him.

They just had a wonderful fellowship"¦a memory that neither of them will ever forget. So, God provides when you need it in the special time to be there, but I'm not going to leave Bill. I probably won't plan anything else quite like this unless we have a back-up to Brad.

If Brad can't come, someone else would come to be with him and I won't leave him if it's more life-threatening than it is now.

But, I want to be with him when he goes to heaven. I want him to be able to tell me what it's like when he goes and I'm trusting that he will. He'll be able to explain to me what heaven is like and that we'll be joyful when he goes.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Vonette Bright was there right by her husband's side as he went home to be with the Lord one year ago this week. What a precious moment that was as the angels escorted Dr. Bright to heaven and Vonette and a handful of close friends standing around his bedside sang songs and hymns of praise.

We've been listening to a conversation I had with Vonette seven months earlier and I'm so thankful we had that opportunity before her husband went to be with the Lord.

Vonette has written a devotional book that I think will be a great blessing and encouragement to you whatever the season of life that you may be facing right now.

That book is called Set Me Free Indeed. It includes short meditations on subjects that are of interest to all of us as women, subjects like dealing with fear, despair, the empty nest stage of life. There's a reading on finding contentment as a single and others on relieving stress, priorities and loneliness and on and on.

This devotional book by Vonette Bright called Set Me Free Indeed is a real treasure. It will draw you into the Word and it will draw you closer to the heart of God as you have an opportunity to be mentored by this older woman of God who has walked so faithfully with Him over all these years.

Leslie Basham: Here's how you can get a copy. Just call us to order at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us on-line at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today Vonette Bright told us about leaning on God when we can't stand against the pressures of life, but that can be hard. We'll hear about some of the fears and struggles she's had in this area on tomorrow's program. Please be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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